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Public Statements

Nomination of Regina McCarthy to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the need to invest in research to fight pancreatic cancer.

Just six percent of Americans diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live more than 5 years--6 percent.

Sixty-five percent of folks with colon cancer survive that long; 90 percent live 5 years with breast cancer and nearly every man diagnosed with prostate cancer is still living after half a decade.

Why is pancreatic cancer a different story? It is because we do not have a reliable way to detect this deadly disease in its earliest stages.

As a result, nearly 40,000 Americans will die from pancreatic cancer in 2013. But despite being a leading cause of cancer death, pancreatic cancer receives far less support--and far fewer research dollars--than other forms of cancer.

This must change because support for cancer research saves lives.

Supporting pancreatic cancer research will lead to breakthroughs in treatment. It will lead to needed advances in early detection. And it will show the American people that we are serious about saving the lives of their closest family and friends.

For Leigh Enselman, it will make it clear that we are standing with her and her mother.

Leigh lives in Bozeman, MT while her mother, who suffers with pancreatic cancer, lives in Seattle.

Leigh works hard to support her mom during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She also volunteers her time to support pancreatic cancer patients and raise awareness about the disease.

But Leigh worries what is in store for her and her mom. She prays every day that her mom will be among the 6 percent of pancreatic cancer patients who survive.

Myra and Ed Pottratz from Great Falls, MT know what Leigh and her mom are going through. Together, they are fighting Ed's cancer. Ed recently had surgery, but the tumor spread to his liver. He now faces painful chemotherapy treatments, something far too many cancer patients experience.

Supporting pancreatic cancer research will also honor the life of Lanny Duffy of Darby, MT.

Lanny and his wife Deborah were not born and raised in Montana. They came west from Chicago so in retirement Lanny could be closer to his beloved fly fishing. But Lanny was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he only got to enjoy the State he loved for a year before the disease took his life.

Congress took a big step forward last year to support folks such as Leigh, Ed and Lanny. We passed the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act. This bill--supported by a bipartisan majority--increased research into pancreatic cancer. It gave the National Cancer Institute the tools it needs to tackle this lethal disease.

But the sequester is taking back our promise. The sequester cut funding to the National Institutes of Health--which does most of our country's research into this form of cancer--by 5 percent.

That 5 percent cut eliminated 250 million dollars-worth of funding for cancer research.

Talk about sending mixed messages. One moment, we are telling Leigh and her mom that we're fighting cancer with them. The next moment, we are telling them they are on their own.

Just last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee restored the funding that was cut by sequestration so NIH could beat pancreatic cancer. This is my first year as a member of the subcommittee that funds the NIH. It has been an honor to work with Chairman Harkin to ensure that the NIH and medical research all over the country is well funded by this bill.

But this measure--which I wholeheartedly support--has a long way to go before becoming law.

We need to rein in our spending. We need to get our budget in order. But we cannot hurt our neighbors in the process. We owe that to people like Leigh, and Ed and Deborah. For their sake, we need to find a responsible solution to our budget problems.

Folks around the country are skeptical right now in Congress' ability to make smart, responsible decisions.

And cutting funding to fight deadly diseases like pancreatic cancer only adds to their frustration. That is because they know it will slow down the progress we have made toward detecting pancreatic cancer early on and saving lives.

This disease touches me and my office personally. Two members of my office have lost relatives to pancreatic cancer. Chances are I am not alone in this regard. Chances are each of my Senate colleagues knows a Leigh, an Ed, or a Deborah.

In support of those we know, those we've met, and those we love, I urge my colleagues to support increased research into pancreatic cancer, to support the Appropriations Committee's recent NIH budget plan, and to stand for smart and responsible measures to balance our budget.


I also want to talk about the need to protect our civil liberties and our Constitutional rights. When I joined the Senate in 2007, I was a bit of an outlier. But I am not referring to my status as the only working farmer in the Senate or to my haircut.

I am referring to my opposition to the Patriot Act.

Montanans elected me to the U.S. Senate after I made it clear that I didn't just want to fix the Patriot Act, I wanted to repeal it. I still do. But recent events have focused many of us in the Senate on my concerns with the Patriot Act and some parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA.

A recent national survey reveals Americans are shifting in favor of reining in government surveillance programs. In fact, since 2010, nearly twice as many Americans say government spying is going too far and restricting our civil liberties.

Folks like me are now mainstream. Support for repeal--or at least changes--to the Patriot Act is up among both Democrats and Republicans.

As a result, more Members of Congress are expressing their concerns about the extent of the government's spying programs, and the Nation is finally talking about how to fundamentally balance our civil liberties with our national security.

Of course, the recent NSA scandal is at the heart of Washington's newfound interest in standing up for our civil liberties. And lawmakers should be outraged, because the secret collection of our phone and internet records is a perfect example for what happens when government ignores our Constitutional rights. We didn't need Edward Snowden to tell us the Federal Government is circumventing our Constitutional rights.

Whatever one thinks of Edward Snowden--and I think what he did was wrong and hurt our country--the reality is that he was not blowing the whistle on illegal activities. He disclosed information about programs that were perfectly legal.

And that is the problem. The NSA is using bad laws to undertake massive data collection on American citizens.

Just over 2 years ago--here on the Senate floor--I said the Patriot Act is compromising the very liberties and rights that make our Nation great and respected around the world.

At that time I said the Patriot Act gives our government full authority to dig through our private records and tap our phones--without even having to get a judge's warrant.

It did not take rocket science to figure it out, it is in the law.

And now it is time to have a full, open debate about the Patriot Act and the FISA amendments.

The Patriot Act is an invasion of privacy. The FISA Amendments Act is no better.

Both are an affront to our freedoms, and--to me--they raise constitutional questions. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know if they are unconstitutional. But I can tell you that they do not represent the values and the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.

That is why I have voted to repeal it. And it is why I voted against extending the FISA Act in December.

But we can not go back in time. We can only move forward and take action now to better balance our civil liberties with our national security.

To get our intelligence policy back on track in a way that is true to our values, here is what we need to do:

First, we have to fix our laws. We need to do more than just put the government's spying programs under the microscope and we need to rein them in.

That is why I am also supporting a bill that makes it harder for the government to obtain phone call records and forces Federal officials to prove that sought-after records can be linked to a foreign terrorist or group.

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote this bill. I certainly would not call the senior Senator from Vermont an outlier.

We must have increased transparency and accountability about how these programs are being implemented and why they are being run the way they are.

That is why I joined with one-quarter of the Senate to call on the Director of National Intelligence to justify the collection of Americans' phone and personal information. It has been 3 weeks, and we have not gotten a response yet.

We need answers, and they need to be truthful.

That is also why a bipartisan group of Senators has once again introduced legislation to declassify important Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions.

Americans deserve to know what legal arguments the government is using to spy on them, and this bill will do just that.

We need a functioning Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board is charged with making sure national security measures do not violate the rights of law-abiding Americans. For years, seats on the panel sat empty.

But soon after I called on the panel to investigate the NSA, board members found themselves at the White House meeting with the President.

That is a good thing. And they need to continue to have the access and the ear of the President to do their job effectively on behalf of the American people.

It is a new day. Times are changing. The American people are taking a hard look at what Federal officials are doing in the name of national security, and what it means for them and their families.

The question is whether this body will live up to the American people's new expectations.

After the attacks of September 11, Congress approved the PATRIOT Act and our Nation went to war. We stamped out Al Qaeda cells and put terror on its heels around the world.

Then and now, our military and intelligence communities performed bravely. They are better trained, stronger, smarter, and more effective than any other force on the planet. I thank them for their service. From top to bottom, I thank each and every one of them for doing their difficult jobs each and every day.

Congress did not give our intelligence community a blank check to walk all over the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans and Montanans. I am confident American citizens can be kept safe without snooping around in our private lives.

Americans and Montanans are concerned about the government right now. They have seen the recent news about the government missteps, overreach and scandals and wonder where Washington's priorities lie. They wonder whether anyone is looking down the road to see where this country is going.

Every measure I have outlined today will help restore the balance between national security and privacy, and every one of them has strong bipartisan support.

I will keep working with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and anyone else to defend our civil liberties and for the ideals of our Founding Fathers. Freedom, privacy, and a government controlled by the people are the principles on which our forefathers founded our Nation, and they are the principles that led Montanans to send me to Washington and represent them.

Our constitutional rights are what make us the greatest country in the world, and we cannot let them be taken away one new law at a time.


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